My Week in Review – January 10, 2016

This week was not a success. I was supposed to get up at 6 AM every morning but only managed it twice, plus once at 6:30. My water habit from last week relapsed into drinking Coke once the first of my twins got sick. The constant whining stresses me out, especially when I can’t do anything about it.

Last night I tried to get a head start on this week’s mini-resolution: taking vitamins. I have been wanting to try the stuff called Liquid Gold and had 2 huge bottles at home that a friend gave me. SHe said if I could get past the taste, I’d feel a whole heck of a lot better. For that promise, I was willing to try.

Oh. My. God. I couldn’t do it. I took half a shot glass size dose – half the recommended size – and my gag reflex immediately kicked in – in a big way. It was horrible. So I’m taking regular pill vitamins – less stuff but not awful tasting. Plus, if I can’t keep the stuff down, what’s the point?

So for this coming week I’ll be taking my (horse-pill sized) vitamins, but I’ll also be trying again with the water and getting up at 6:00. I know it sounds like I’m setting myself up for failure – and maybe I am – but school starts back this week and I’ll have a routine again so the structure will help me be successful. I hope.

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Goals for 2016

In the past I have set a series of goals and/or (usually and) resolutions for the whole year. Sometimes I break it up with a different goal or resolution each month, planned in advance (of course!). Sometimes they work out, sometimes not so much, and sometimes I just stop caring about them. I don’t deal well with failure and tend to see things in black and white. I tend to do the things I am good at. If I’m not good at something, I don’t do it – or try not to. But this year I am moving past that. I am leaving my comfort zone – something I started last summer but will continue with this year.

To that end, I am doing my prerequisites for pharmacy school. My previous degrees are in Literature, History, and Reading and Literacy Education – all things that come naturally to me. Math and science . . . not so much. But pharmacy school requires A LOT of math and science and so I doing that. I am stretching myself, even though it is uncomfortable and I mostly don’t care for it. That is the first part of my resolution for 2016.

The second part – and just as important – is to improve my energy levels. Everything comes down to energy. I don’t need time management skills, I have those: I need energy management skills. I have two year old twins, a pretty awful diet (I would mainline Coke in a can if I could), and get less than 6 hours of sleep per night – often because I’m too exhausted to even get ready for bed. My house is not as clean as I’d like, my routines are not in place, and the reason I keep failing at all of these things is because I have no energy. It’s not that I don’t want a clean house and routines and a healthy diet and to exercise in the morning and to sleep 7-8 hours each night and to spend quality time with my boys – it’s that I want (need) sleep more. Most days, just doing the bare minimum to take care of the boys is all I have to offer. There is nothing left.

So this is how I changed my resolution this year. My overall goal is to improve my energy levels but that is broad and potentially a nightmare of complexities – a sure set up for failure. Instead I have a mini-resolution for each week – all meant to contribute to a greater feeling of energy – and all I have to do is try it for a week. If I fail, I fail for a week and move on. Next week might be better and I can always try again later. For example, this week my resolution was to get up a 6 AM every morning. This was not a great week. Last week was to drink 64 oz of water every day, and it was much better – and this week I am drinking more water than I was previously. When I did the water resolution, I found I drank less Coke and craved Coke less and got more accomplished, so it is a habit to keep. Next week is to take vitamins, but since school is starting next week and my classes start at 9:30 and I have to drop my kids off at school first before I start my hour long commute, it will be a good week to retry waking up at 6.

For those of you interested, here is how January worked out for my mini-resolutions:

12/27-1/2 – Drink 64 oz of water daily

1/3-1/10 – Wake at 6 AM

1/11 – 1/16 – Take vitamins

1/17 -1/23 – Eat 5 servings of plants (fruits or vegetables; I don’t count grains since they make me lethargic)

1/24-1/30 – Workout in the morning

1/31-2/6 – Be optimistic

What are each of you doing to keep your energy levels high?

Compassion for Others . . . and for Ourselves?

My twins’ school had picture day back in October. Flyers and emails were sent out. Parents were verbally reminded every day the week of the event. Notices were on the board outside the gate where everyone has to stop to enter their access code in order to drop off or pick up their child. In other words, we were TOLD. Repeatedly. We were told so often and in so many ways, it should have been ingrained in our brains.

I was ready. I had matching outfits picked out for my little men. They were bathed, combed, brushed, their shoes were cleaned, they were neatly dressed. They looked adorable. We were ready! Bring on the photographer!

We got to school and went directly to the “studio” to have their pictures taken because everyone knows how hard it is to keep a 23 month old clean. Right? Don’t they? While we were waiting for the family in front of us to finish, Jason decided he needed to eat lunch. At 9 AM. Right now. The fit he threw trying to get to the Lunchable in their lunchbox was embarrassing. He doesn’t often throw fits, but this time he did and it was a doozy! Throwing himself on the floor, screeching, kicking, yelling . . . I felt like the worst mother ever. What kind of mother can’t even control her 22 month old? Clearly, I was the only mother who ever lost control of her child. No other parent in the whole school would ever have this happen. Obviously.

The boys finally got their pictures taken and, between the tears and the frantic attempts to get to the lunchbox, they came out fine. Good even. Afterward they had snack and the Lunchable was (mercifully!) forgotten.

But that is not the point of this story. When I was in the office afterward I passed a mom and her son. The son was in play clothes and an old Mickey Mouse shirt. I thought maybe he really likes Mickey Mouse and mom wanted that current obsession to reflect in the school picture that she’d be sending to grandparents and relatives. I was wrong. She dropped off her son and came into the office. She lamented forgetting it was picture day. She couldn’t believe he was having his picture taken dressed like that. She was mortified. And at first I thought to myself, “Well, I can’t control my kids but at least I’ve got it more together than her. I remembered it was picture day.” (Did I mention there is a reason I called this blog Better Than Myself? I try, but I’m not always the nicest person.) But then I thought, “No, that doesn’t make me have it together more than her. It means I remembered it was picture day and she had other things she had to remember. It means that she and I are the same – and so, probably, is everyone else here. We are all here. We show up. We do the best we can do. Some days our best is enough and everything gets remembered and done. And some days, we wish our best was better than it is.

My point here is, it took me a minute, but I had compassion for that mother. Why could I not find that same compassion for myself? Because I, like her, am doing my best, even though my best is not good enough. Because my best used to be better than it is, under different circumstances and without kids and when I was younger than I am now.

How do you show compassion for yourself? Please comment so everyone can benefit from your wisdom.

Better Than Myself

William Faulkner said, “Do not bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.”

This quote resonates with me because I have always striven for perfection. Don’t get me wrong: I know perfection is not attainable. I have no delusions about that. But I figure, if I miss the mark, I still end up better than I am now, and that’s a pretty good place to be.

A few years back, I was doing a pretty good job. I was a teacher and department chair. I had a great marriage.  I woke up a 4:30 every day to work out. I ate mostly healthy foods. My house was always clean. I was still dealing with paper clutter, but what teacher doesn’t?  My life wasn’t perfect, but it was good. It was a satisfying life, overall.

And then it (mostly) fell apart. I didn’t like my job anymore and decided I wanted to teach another grade. That was an abysmal failure (not entirely my own fault) so I switched to another job. I got fired for the first time in my life. I wanted to switch careers but couldn’t find another job. I found out I was pregnant. Really pregnant. With twins. I lost my unemployment because I was too sick to work. I had to move away from the house I loved. Then my twins were born two months early.

I wish I could say I forgot about everything else, and in a way I did but mostly because I was SO exhausted and despite lots of research about raising kids and having babies, I was embarrassingly unprepared. The nurse in the NICU had to teach me how to change a diaper, how to hold a baby. I was a teacher, but I have always been terrified of babies. Even when I taught in a daycare center, I refused to be put in the infant room because I am so scared of babies. They are just so breakable. But I digress . . .

It is now two years later and my NICU preemies are now rambunctious toddlers. I still don’t want to return to teaching, so I am a full time student preparing for a new career path. I don’t get up at 4:30 to work out, I don’t eat as well as I should, and my house is not clean. I still have an amazing husband and pretty awesome kids, but everything else . . . well, it kinds sucks.  I am starting this blog in part as a way to hold myself accountable for my own improvement. And boy, do I have a LOT of improving to do! I am also writing it because there are a million blogs out there for people who do have it together, for people who have never chosen sleep over washing baby vomit out of their hair (I was so tired I forgot it was there), for people who just want to be a better version of themselves.